Category: General (Uncategorized)

Thai National Overcomes Alleged Misrepresentation, Obtains Lawful Permanent Resident Status

In December of 2015, our office was contacted by another immigration lawyer in town.  Her clients had been waiting for a green card for the foreign-born wife for over a year and a half.

The lawyer thought that our office could help.

We met with Frank and Gigi (* not their real names) and they told us their story.

Gigi was born in Thailand and was a widow.  Her husband had died in a motorcycle accident shortly after the birth of their second daughter.

A few years later, Gigi applied for a visit visa to come and visit relatives in the U.S.  Her first request for a visa was denied.  Then she hired a “visa consultant” in Thailand who “helped” Gigi fill out the visa application.

Gigi and the consultant completed the DS-160 and Gigi did her best to answer the questions truthfully and honestly.

But one of the questions asked about Gigi’s marital status.  She indicated on the form that she was “married.”  Gigi thought the question meant had you ever been married so she said yes.

The visa was approved and Gigi came to the United States.

A few months after she arrived, Gigi met a man named Frank.  Frank was a U.S. citizen and a former Marine.  Frank and Gigi decided to get married.

Frank completed an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and Gigi applied for adjustment of status.  Wisely, they hired an attorney to help them with the application process.

Frank also filed I-130 Petitions for Gigi’s two daughters back in Thailand.  They were staying with Gigi’s parents.

The St. Louis field office scheduled Gigi and Frank for a green card interview.  They successfully completed the interview but then the case dragged on for months and months.

Frustrated and unable to get any answers from the local USCIS office, the attorney recommended that Gigi and Frank visit our office to see if we could help.

After discussing the situation and learning about the confusion surrounding Gigi’s visa application, we sent a letter to USCIS and threatened to sue them if they did not decide the case quickly.

Instead of issuing a grant or a denial, the Service sent us a new interview notice.  They claimed that Gigi had misrepresented herself at the embassy and wanted to discuss it with us.

We attended the interview and explained that there was no fraud or misrepresentation.  We explained that the only problem was that Gigi had misunderstood the question about marriage.  We provided proof of her ex-husband’s death and explained how it was all a misunderstanding.

A few months later, the Service invited us to file an I-601 waiver for the alleged misrepresentation.

Without conceding that Gigi had misrepresented herself, we did go ahead and file for the waiver.  We submitted evidence of how Gigi supported Frank, how she helped take care of Frank’s elderly father and the extreme hardship that would befall Frank if Gigi were not granted the waiver.

While we awaited that decision, the I-130s for the girls back in Thailand had been approved.  Gigi could not leave the country due to her shaky immigration status.  So Frank, the ex-Marine, went back to Thailand on his own to get the girls.

And that he did.

Shortly after Frank and the girls returned to the U.S., Gigi’s waiver and green card were approved.

Now the family is all united in St. Louis.  We ran into them yesterday at the Webster Groves Fourth of July carnival.

Turns out that Gigi is now pregnant.

We couldn’t be happier for this awesome family.

How Do I Know if My Case is Delayed by CARRP

What is the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program and how might I figure out if my case is subject to it?

Hi my name is Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of office here in St. Louis, Missouri.

A lot of people have not heard of CARRP which is the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program. CARRP was a program started about 10 years ago, in secret by the federal government and what it is, is 35 agencies working together to slow down immigration to the United States by Muslims or people from predominantly Muslim countries. Around the world there are countries that are predominantly Muslim where many of the people that live there follow the Islamic faith and the government decided in secret to start holding these cases to extra scrutiny. In fact, what they do is they assume that the person whose applying from this predominantly Muslim country, is in fact a terrorist or a bad person and then sort of works through backwards a system to get the person off the list.

This results in cases taking much longer for people from those countries and so, we see this with people from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen throughout the Middle East, Afghanistan, South Asia many of these countries have people that then fall into this trap of CARRP and they can’t find their way out. People ask me sometimes how do I know whether my case is subject to CARRP? How do I know whether my case is being delayed? The first sign I think is that if your case is taking more than a year. If your case is far outside normal processing times, that’s usually a good sign that your case is being delayed due to CARRP.

Another sign is that if the FBI has come to visit you in the past, either at your home or your business and this could be 15 years ago, basically if the FBI has touched your immigration file in anyway, this often leads to delays because immigration officers are reluctant to move the case along and you might have to take some extra measures to get your case resolved. We’ll talk about those in another video, but for now we’re just talking about the signs. We talked about if the case is taking more than a year. We’ve talked about if the FBI has come to visit. If you take a lot of trips overseas this is another thing that can slow down your immigration case if you’re visiting predominantly Muslim countries. This will slow down your immigration case.

If you send a lot of money overseas, or receive money from overseas, these are other things that might have raised a flag in your file. If you had any kind of interaction with law enforcement outside the FBI, if you’ve been detained by immigration officials or state or local law enforcement officials, these are other things that can get your case slowed down.

If you got your immigration benefit, if you got your green card or some earlier benefit without an interview, this is another way that things can slow down later, so the immigration service sometimes scrutinizes cases heavily when there haven’t been past opportunities, like in an employment visa context to interview someone. If you ever gotten any kind of conflicts at your place of worship or with other people, if anyone’s ever gone down to the immigration office and said bad things about you, these are things that can really cause you to be placed under the CARRP list and have your case delayed.

If you continually make InfoPass appointments and call the 1-800-USCIS number, and you don’t get any answers this another sign that your case is being delayed by CARRP. We have a lot of people who contact us at the end of the rope. They’re pretty frustrated, they’ve done all those things I’ve just listed plus they’ve contacted their members of congress, if you can’t get any kind of answers, if they tell you things like “Err, we are looking for your file” or “your case is on background check” or “security check”, these are all signs that your case is being delayed by CARRP.

In other videos we talk about what you can do, how you can file a lawsuit against the immigration service and the other government agencies involved in CARRP. The program has been challenged in Court, so far the immigration service has been allowed to continue the program and so for now, your only recourse really is to file a lawsuit, a writ of mandamus to try to ask a federal Judge to compel immigration to rule on your case. We’ve litigated many of these cases, we have handled many.

Green card delay cases, citizenship delay cases, overseas visa delay cases and even asylum delay cases. If you have any questions about this, how this works, how a lawsuit might help, get you off the CARRP list and get your case moving along again, feel free to give us a call at 314-961-8200 or you can email us at jim@hackinglawpractice.com.

If you liked this video, please be sure to click the like button, share it with your friends and make sure that you subscribe to our YouTube channel and have a great day. Thanks a lot.

 

Family Law 101

In law school, most lawyers (myself included) take a class on family law.  We do this not necessarily because we want to become family law attorneys, but it is a subject that could be tested on the Bar Exam to get our license.  Additionally, it is an area worth having some background in as it can come up in different practice areas.  

 

In the family law class, we learned about how society and law define what is a “family.”  We learned about the changing nature of families (same-sex couples, single-parent households, etc.), as well as the legal definition of marriage, divorce, parenting, child support and adoption, among other things.  It was an important and interesting class, but not an area I wanted to devote my career to.

 

Interestingly, almost 20 years later, I find myself spending quite a bit of time with clients talking about the implications and impact of family law and marriage on their immigration status.  

 

For one client, she and her husband were here on nonimmigrant visas and have a US citizen child.  Shortly after having the baby, the husband became abusive to her and her child. While he is on his way to obtaining immigrant status in this country, she is left worried about her child and her status in this country.  Family law and divorce law will impact her immigration case directly.

 

In another case, an immigrant spouse has been married to a US citizen for almost two years and it is time to remove the conditions on the green card so the spouse can obtain the 10-year green card.  Unfortunately, around the same time, the immigrant spouse has become abused by the US citizen spouse and the immigrant spouse wants to leave the marriage.  But she is concerned about her immigration status and wants to figure out how they can stay in the country.  Whether the marriage is still in effect will have a direct impact on her immigration case.

 

Yet another way that family law is brought into immigration practice is when couples get married and come to see us about starting their family petition to sponsor the immigrant spouse.  One of the first things we do in that situation is talk to the couple directly about how they met and what their plans are for the future.  

 

We are, in a way, testing the validity of the marriage in our law office, as that is what the immigration office will do.  It is essential that couples come together when they meet the lawyer and have some documentation of their relationship before they got married, and how things have changed/stayed the same since their marriage.  For instance, wedding pictures, copies of their marriage license, joint bank accounts, joint lease, etc. can provide solid evidence of a valid relationship.  

 

Some red flags for couples that can make it challenging to prove the validity of the marriage are if the marriage was secret (in other words, family and friends are not aware or part of the relationship), the couple is not living together or the couple does not share finances or financial responsibility in the marriage.  Family law and the validity of the marriage in particular directly impact the future of the client’s immigration status in this country.

 

So, while we are immigration attorneys, family law still plays an important role in what we do.  
 

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Travel Ban, Allows Partial Implementation

On June 26, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear oral arguments on President Donald J. Trump’s travel ban, which would temporarily prohibit the issuance of visas to people from six predominantly-Muslim countries.

The US Supreme Court said it would hear arguments on the legality of the revised ban during its next term, which runs between October 2 and December 21.

In making the announcement, the Court also allowed certain parts of the ban to take effect immediately.

The Court seems to have allowed the ban for individuals with loose or zero ties to the U.S.  It is expected to affect refugees and non-immigrant visa seekers from Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Iran and Yemen the most.

As for family members of U.S. citizens or those seeking employment in the U.S., the court said the ban could not be imposed on anyone who had “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.

The Court explained that “for individuals, a close familial relationship is required” and that “as for entities, the relationship must be formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading” the order.

In a statement, the White House called the decision a “clear victory” for national security.  “As president, I cannot allow people into our country who want to do us harm,” Mr. Trump wrote, calling his efforts to limit entry into the country a “suspension” instead of a ban. “I want people who can love the United States and all of its citizens, and who will be hardworking and productive.”

Cecillia Wang, the deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the New York Times that the ban would not apply to many people while the court case proceeds.

“Clearly, the White House press statement today is based on alternative facts,” Ms. Wang said.

Three of the court’s conservative justices – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch – wrote that they would have allowed the travel ban to go into full effect.

“The hope is that this really only impacts a very small number of people,” Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project told USA Today.

Interestingly, the Court made no mention of campaign statements by candidate Donald Trump, nor did it reference the President’s many tweets.  “The 16 pages did not include any citations to President Trump’s campaign rhetoric,” CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said. “And the Supreme Court seems reluctant to get into the business of that, which is why I always thought the President had the best chance of winning at the Supreme Court.”
“This is about the executive order itself. It is not about the campaign or anything else,” Toobin added.

What Happens When an Asylum Seeker Marries a U.S. Citizen?

What happens if I get married while my asylum case is pending? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer, practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri.

In our office, we’ve seen a couple of situations lately where asylum clients of ours, people who have raised their hand and asked for sanctuary in the United States through the asylum process, have gotten married or are planning on getting married to a US citizen. They wonder what happens in those situations. Well, the fact is, asylum cases take a really long time. Asylum will take sometimes two, three, or four years, sometimes even longer. It takes a long time to get your interview. It takes a long time for the asylum office to decide the case.

Sometimes while people are here in the United States with a pending asylum case, they fall in love and get married. If that happens, in most situations, the person can get a green card based on that marriage if it is a valid marriage. That’s, of course, the number one thing, the marriage has to be valid. It has to be legitimate. It has to be based on love and nothing else, not on getting any kind of immigration benefit.

I would say that these marriages are probably held to a higher standard that the immigration officers are gonna want to look at it more closely. But if the person was inspected before they applied for asylum … So, you know, people who applied for asylum just have to be physically present in the United States.

Those people can be divided into two groups, those who entered with inspection, and those who entered without inspection. So what I mean by entering without inspection, that means coming across the border. But if you came on a visa and overstayed, or you came on a visa and eventually the visa expired, and then you applied for asylum, then you will have been properly inspected and you’ll be eligible to adjust your status to that of lawful permanent resident.

Marrying a US citizen can be a big help. You would then go through the normal process. What we would do is we would keep the asylum case pending. We don’t want to undo the asylum case because you never know what’s gonna happen with the marriage. But assuming that the asylum case has not been decided, you can go ahead and file for an I-130 Petition for an Alien Relative, where the US citizen says, “I want to sponsor the asylum seeker and my spouse for a green card.” Then you file for adjustment. You go through the process normally.,

Now, one other thing besides making sure that there’s not fraud and that it is a valid marriage, I think there also is a good chance that they’re gonna go back and look at the asylum application. The immigration officer’s gonna make sure that it wasn’t a frivolous asylum application. That would probably involve sort of a bare bones analysis as to whether or not there was a valid claim for asylum. Short of that, you should be good to go. You should be able to adjust and get your green card.

If you have any questions about how this process works or how you can go from being an asylum applicant to a adjustment of status applicant, based on marriage to a US citizen, make sure to give us a call at (314) 961-8200. You can email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com. We have a lot of asylum information on our website. We’d be happy to talk to you if you have questions. If you like this video, please make sure to click “like” below and to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you’re alerted whenever we shoot new videos. Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

Why You Should Never Send A Letter to USCIS

Is it ever a good idea to send a letter to USCIS?

Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. We had a couple of situations lately where people came to us with screwed up immigration cases.

One of the main reasons their cases were screwed up, it was because they sent a letter to USCIS. Now, obviously, you can send USCIS general letters asking them questions about the status your case and things like that.

But the one time that you don’t want to send a letter to the USCIS is when they’ve asked you for more information or you’ve already had your interview. Generally speaking, if you’re in a situation where you’re having to write a letter to the USCIS to explain something, that tells me, it tells us, that the case is so complicated that you definitely need to have an attorney involved. If you are finding yourself thinking about, even just thinking about sending a letter to USCIS, you really, really, really should go first and talk to an experienced immigration attorney.

Let me tell you what happens. In this situation, a man had filed for an I-130 based on his marriage to a U.S. citizen. He had had an arrest for domestic violence. Although the charges were ultimately dropped because his wife decided to not press charges, USCIS found out about it and asked him about during his interview.

He was so distraught and upset after his interview that he thought it would be a good idea to write a letter trying to explain to USCIS why his case wasn’t that serious, why it wasn’t really abuse. When you read the letter, it just … Every paragraph got worse and worse. His English wasn’t fantastic, but more importantly, the substance of the letter was just terrible. He basically tried to justify why it was okay for him to have hit his wife in this one situation.

Now, obviously, if he’d gone to see an attorney, no attorney would ever let him send a letter like that. There’s absolutely no way that he could ever justify hitting a woman, specifically his wife, and there was no way that USCIS was going to say, “Oh! Thanks for the letter. Now we know that we should just go ahead and approve this case.” Now the guy’s in serious trouble, mostly because he went to his interview without an attorney, but more importantly, because he wrote this letter.

If you ever receive a request for evidence or a continuance of your immigration case and you’re being asked to provide additional documentation, that is generally a really good sign that you need help. You’re not going to be able to get this approved on your own. In fact, you’re probably just going to make matters worse.

You know, we’re plenty busy here. If you don’t hire us, that’s just fine. We’re making this video as a service to you to make sure that you reach out to somebody who knows what they’re doing, to somebody who deals with the immigration service every day, knows how to respond to request for evidence, knows how to write a letter that is persuasive and does not damage the case, and basically knows what they’re doing.

You might have gotten your case this far, but you’re now in a different league. You’re really going to have to make sure that you get help, because you can’t do it on your own. It’s a real good sign that things are in trouble when you’re at a point where you feel like you need to send them a letter.

If you have any questions about this, if you’re thinking about sending a letter to USCIS about your case, if you think that you’ve got it all figured out and then you’re going to go ahead and send this letter, we really encourage you not to do that. Instead, give us a call at 314-961-8200. Or you can email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com.

If you liked this video, please click Like below and make sure that you share it with your friends. Be sure to subscribe to all of our social media channels: YouTube, Facebook. We also have an immigration group on Facebook called Immigrant Home. We’d love to have you there. If you have any questions, give us a call.

Thanks a lot and have a good day.

 

Not Deporting Anyone Today

Last week, firm attorney Andrew Bloomberg handled his very first deportation hearing.

Andrew was more than ready.

While in law school, he had an internship at the Memphis Immigration Court and witnessed many such hearings.  He learned a lot about what to do and what not to do in such hearings.

While with our firm, Andrew has worked on many aspects of a deportation case.  He had simply never conducted his own trial.  Jim Hacking attended the hearing to make sure that everything went okay.

Andrew’s client was a young man from Afghanistan.  Let’s call him Rashid.

Rashid’s father was an Afghan government official before the Taliban came into power.  Once the Taliban took over the country, Rashid’s father was in trouble.  When Rashid was in grade school, the Taliban came for his father.

Rashid was the oldest child of six.  He was in grade school.  Rashid, his mother and his five brothers and sisters fled to Pakistan.  They believed their father to be dead.

Instead of going to school, Rashid went to work.  His mom worked too and they made a little money.  Just enough to keep the family alive.

Amazingly, Rashid’s father was able to escape from the Taliban and he was eventually reunited with the rest of the family in Pakistan.  They applied through the United Nations High Commission on Refugees to be resettled.  After several years, they were approved to come to Texas.

Rashid continued working.  His father was not able to work full time and Rashid was the main breadwinner.  He never went back to school.

Rashid’s longtime girlfriend and his brother both went back to Afghanistan to assist U.S. military by translating.  Rashid’s girlfriend sustained injuries in Afghanistan.

Rashid got into some trouble.  Nothing too serious, but in Texas they strictly follow the law and he did spend a few days here and there in jail.  None of his crimes were violent and mostly involved things like writing a bad check and credit card problems.

But the crimes were enough to bring him under the attention of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  Rashid and his girlfriend were living in St. Louis when he got picked up by ICE.

Because of his crimes, he was subject to mandatory detention.  This means that he was not eligible for bond and had to sit in jail while his case made its way through the immigration court.

His family hired another attorney, who filed a worthless request for a bond hearing.  Rashid was not eligible for bond and the judge scolded the prior attorney for wasting time with the bond hearing.

The family lost confidence in the prior attorney.  They decided to hire the Hacking Law Practice, LLC, to see if Rashid could be saved.  They met with Andrew Bloomberg and he began working on the case.

We sent away for his immigration file.  We met with the family and Andrew began writing up statements to explain to the judge why Rashid might be eligible to stay in the U.S.  Andrew prepared statements from Rashid, his father, his mother, his girlfriend, his brother and a few of his sisters.

We submitted the statements along with a legal brief outlining our theory of the case.  Section 209(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides that when someone comes to the U.S. as a refugee, their deportation may be stopped and they be allowed to adjust status to that of lawful permanent resident for humanitarian purposes, to assure family unity, or when it is otherwise in the public interest.  We asked for a waiver of the crimes that made Rashid inadmissible.

Andrew spent a lot of time at the Lincoln County Jail where Rashid was being held prior to trial.  His family drove from Texas to Missouri to work with Andrew on their statements.  Andrew submitted all of the evidence to the Court a week before trial.

We drove to Kansas City and the family met us there.  Rashid attended the trial by video hookup with the Lincoln County jail.  After a few preliminary matters, Andrew conducted his examination of Rashid and the attorney for the Department of Homeland Security cross-examined Rashid.  The judge asked a few questions.

As Andrew began to call his next witness, the judge cut him off.  We went off the record and the judge asked whether everyone who wrote a letter on Rashid’s behalf was at court.  Andrew replied that they were.  He asked if they would testify consistently with the statements that Andrew had prepared.  Andrew replied that they would.

Incredibly, the judge then told the DHS attorney that he was inclined to grant our requested waiver.  The government indicated that they would not be appealing such a ruling.  The judge cut the hearing off after 35 minutes and granted lawful permanent resident status.

The judge believed that Andrew had established all three reasons for the waiver.  Given the family’s hard life in Afghanistan, the humanitarian prong had been satisfied.  As all of Rashid’s family lived in the U.S. and as everyone but Rashid had become a citizen, family unity was satisfied.  Finally, given the service that Rashid’s brother and fiance had given to the U.S. Army, Judge Salinardi felt that it was in the public interest for Rashid to be allowed to stay.

Andrew won.  Rashid won.  He has been released from immigration detention and has been reunited with his family.

We are so proud of Andrew and the hard work that he put in the case.  The judge called the family into the courtroom to explain why he was not going to make them all testify in the case.  He complimented Andrew for the “excellent” brief and evidence that he had developed.  He thanked Rashid’s brother and fiance for their service and he closed the proceedings.

Excellent work, Andrew.  We are very proud of you.

 

 

Can a writ of mandamus help in delayed asylum cases

 

Can a writ of mandamus lawsuit work for people who have delayed asylum cases? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States out of office here in St. Louis, Missouri. You know one of our favorite things to do here at the Hacking Law Practice is to file lawsuits on behalf of immigrants who’ve been waiting too long for immigration benefits. Typically, we do that in the citizenship context, so probably over a hundred people have benefited from working with us to file lawsuits on their behalf against the USCIS. The way it works is you file a lawsuit, you ask a federal judge who doesn’t work for the immigration service, who’s appointed for life and who is not part of the executive branch, to compel the immigration service to decide a case.

We’ve had people who’ve been waiting for their citizenship for one, two, three, four, five, even nine years benefit from us filing a lawsuit. When you file a lawsuit, it generally requires the USCIS to take the case off the shelf. For some reason, they’ve taken people’s cases and put them up on the shelf, and the lawsuit makes them explain the source of the delay. When delays have gone on for a really, really long time, the agency usually does not want to fight. They just want to move the case forward. We oftentimes get positive movement on the cases, oftentimes scheduling an interview or scheduling an oath ceremony.
We’ve always known that it works in the citizenship context. We’ve also had success, which you can learn about on other videos, when it comes to green card delays. We even had success suing the State Department for delays in processing immigrant visas for the spouses of US citizens. The one thing we’ve never done before is file a mandamus action for someone who had been waiting for asylum. One of the reasons we were reluctant to do that is we weren’t entirely sure, given the fact that the immigration service and the asylum office has so much discretion in granting or denying asylum, we were reluctant to file a lawsuit on the asylum front. We weren’t sure if it was going to work.

About six months ago, we were hired by a very nice couple from Syria who happen to live in Michigan. They had filed for asylum in December of 2012. They had their interview just a few months later, which is unusual, but it does happen. Sometimes, randomly, certain asylum cases get assigned very quickly to an interview. Their interview happened literally six weeks after they filed. The interview was in January of 2013, and at the time that they hired us in October of 2016, they had been waiting for three and a half years for their decision. They had done everything they could do to try to get help. They had contacted the CIA ombudsman. They had contacted their senators and representatives in Michigan, and they had made numerous InfoPass appointments, and they just couldn’t get any movement.

One thing to keep in mind is this couple had hired the largest immigration law firm in the country. If I told you their name, you’d have heard of them. They have offices around the country and around the world. I think generally they specialize more in business immigration, and while they did take this asylum case, when I reviewed the paperwork that had been filed, I didn’t think they had done a very job. Specifically, what I complained about was the fact that the statement that was submitted in support of the asylum application was all over the map. It wasn’t very focused. It left a lot of things wide open and a lot of issues for inquiry by the asylum officer.

I talked to my client about how the initial interview had gone. He said that it had gone very well, that the officer had talked to them for about an hour, which is also unusual, and that the asylum case, he was told by the officer, would be approved in a couple of months. None of that made real sense. Nonetheless, we decided to file a lawsuit. We filed suit in Chicago, because that’s where our client’s asylum case was pending. We filed it in federal court. We served copies on the defendants, and pretty quickly, he got rescheduled for another interview. That was last January. I attended the interview with my clients. It was a long day. My client had a lot to say, and they had a lot of ground to cover. They were revisiting and reissuing focus on the case and the questions that had been answered back in 2013, and they wanted to make sure that my client had not supported any kind of groups that the United States was worried about in Syria.
When the interview was over, we thought that we had done a good job and that we would be getting a decision shortly.

It turns out that we had to wait a little bit longer. Now, the defendants had a certain amount of time to answer the lawsuit. Typically, it’s 60 days, but because they were working with us, we had given them some extensions and were coming up against a new deadline. I got a call from the US attorney who was defending the lawsuit to tell me that, lo and behold, the immigration service, the asylum office, wanted to interview our client one more time. Now, I took this as a good sign, because I figured if they wanted to deny the case, they wouldn’t call us back in for another interview, but that’s in fact what they did. This week, we went up to Chicago and had a third interview on the asylum case. It was relatively quick, but it was about an hour long.

One thing the attorney had told me when he called was that he was willing to promise that we would leave the asylum office that day with a decision. It was a very stressful day for my client and for me. We went through that hour-long third interview, and then they asked us to wait so they could talk to the supervisor. They had a few more questions after that, and then we had to wait a few hours while they issued their decision. We spent that time pacing back and forth in the asylum office. It was back like when I had trial work, and I was waiting on a jury. I really wasn’t sure which way it was going to go. The officer didn’t want to come out and see us herself. She had the lady at the front window give us the decision, so we’re sitting there waiting for the decision. It was very suspenseful. I was very worried.

The decision was sitting across from us. I couldn’t tell what it said. I was pretty sure that it was going to be a denial, but the agent happily told us that our client had been approved. His long four-and-a-half year wait for asylum had been granted, that he’d been granted a parole into the United States, and that he was going to be treated as an asylee, that a year from now, he can apply for a green card, and then five years after that, he can apply for citizenship. This happened on a day that there was a horrible gas attack in Syria, so it only led more importance and significance to the victory. We were very, very excited for our client and his wife and his two lovely US citizen daughters. They’re not going to have to go back to Syria or to leave the United States. It was quite a victory, and we’re really happy for our clients.

Lesson learned. If an asylum case has been pending for a really, really long time … It’s not going to work in every case, and I would say a delay of two or three or four years is sort of the minimum before we file a lawsuit, but to know that the immigration service, the asylum office, and the US attorneys will work with us on asylum cases is a very valuable lesson.

If you have experienced delay in any kind of immigration case, whether it’s citizenship, green cards, visas, anything, make sure to give us a call at the Hacking Law Practice, 314-961-8200. You can email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com. If you like this video, be sure to click the subscribe button below. Give us a like and a shout out on social media. We’d really appreciate it. It’s a big help. If you have questions that you want us to cover, just feel free to email us at info@hackinglawpractice.com, and we’ll try to shoot a video for you. Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

 

Trump Administration Shakes Up the H-1b System

Over the past several weeks, the nation has seen some revisions to the interpretation of our country’s immigration laws related to the system that allows foreign nationals to work in the United States.

Generally, foreign nationals are not allowed to work in the U.S. without authorization.  The name of the visa that most foreigners use to work is the H-1b visa.

Federal law allows for the issuance of 65,000 H-1b visas to foreign nationals with a college degree in a “specialty occupation.”  Another 20,000 such H-1bs are set aside for foreign workers with a master’s degree from a U.S. institution of higher learning.

The H-1b system is based on federal law, as passed by Congress many years ago.

The President’s role in the H-1b system is to enforce laws passed by Congress, including the H-1b system.  The new Trump administration has made several recent and important changes to the H-1b program.

These changes will affect immigrants working in the St. Louis area and throughout the United States.

Premium Processing Suspended

The first change occurred in late March of 2017, shortly before the filing deadline for the next fiscal year of H-1b visas.  The Department of Homeland Security issued an announcement on the USCIS website that premium processing for H-1b visas had been temporarily suspended.

Premium processing allows an employer seeking to hire a foreign worker to obtain an answer in a few short weeks as opposed to waiting for five or six months.  Under the Trump administration, foreign workers and the U.S. companies that wish to hire them will have to wait much longer for an answer.

Mr. Trump made it clear during the presidential campaign that his number one priority was helping American workers and it appears that this change is designed to make it harder and more cumbersome to hire foreign nationals.

Computer Programmer Job May No Longer Qualify

On March 31, 2017, the day before next year’s H-1b applications were due, USCIS changed the rules regarding the availability of H-1b visas for the position of “computer programmer.”

The agency rescinded a 2000 memorandum that said that the role of a computer programmer would usually qualify as a specialty occupation and therefore be eligible for an H-1b visa.

USCIS issued a new memorandum that makes clear that foreign nationals employed as computer programmers, especially those in entry-level positions, may no longer be treated as working in a “specialty occupation.”  Because many computer programmers work without a specific college degree in computer programming, the job may not always be considered a specialty occupation.  Therefore, the H-1b visa may not be available for these foreign workers.

From the memo:

Based on the current version of the [Occupational Outlook] Handbook, the fact that a person may be employed as a computer programmer and may use information technology skills and knowledge to help an enterprise achieve its goals in the course of his or her job is not sufficient to establish the position as a specialty occupation. Thus, a petitioner may not rely solely on the Handbook to meet its burden when seeking to sponsor a beneficiary for a computer programmer position. Instead, a petitioner must provide other evidence to establish that the particular position is one in a specialty occupation as defined by 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(ii) that also meets one of the criteria at 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(iii). Section 214(i)(1) of the INA; see also Royal Siam Corp. v. Chertoff, 484 F.3d 139, 147 (1st Cir. 2007).

This is an important change.

Any employer looking to hire a foreign national is required to pay the prevailing wage.  The prevailing wage is calculated by looking at the average wages paid in a particular geographic area for that occupation type.

Computer programmers make significantly less than software developers.  The thought is that employers have been saving money and undercutting the American worker by paying foreign nationals as computer programmers instead of as software developers.

This change will require companies, especially foreign staffing companies, to pay a lot more to their employees or risk having their H-1b applications denied.

It is interesting, to say the least, that the Trump administration decided to make this announcement on the day that immigration lawyers and employers were shipping thousands of H-1b applications to the USCIS service centers for processing.  It appears that this was designed to harm employers who were relying on their ability to hire foreign nationals in this role.

H-1B Abuse Enforcement Announced

On April 3, 2017, USCIS issued a press release to announce “multiple measures to further deter and detect H1B visa fraud and abuse.”

The release is entitled Putting American Workers First: USCIS Announces Further Measures to Detect H-1B Visa Fraud and Abuse.

USCIS has adopted new criteria to determine which H1B employers and worksites are to be targeted for site visits. An updated website and email address have been implemented to purportedly make it easier to notify USCIS that H-1b abuse has occurred.

Site Visits and Enforcement

Since 2009, USCIS has routinely conducted random site visits of H-1b employers and work sites. Starting with the issuance of the press release, USCIS will ramp up the number of site visits conducted and The USCIS has been conducting random site visits to the offices of H1B petitioners and work locations since 2009. Effective immediately, however, the USCIS will increase the number of site visits it conducts and “take a more targeted approach when making site visits across the country.”

The memo takes aim at the following situations: employers whose basic information cannot be verified through commercial databases; employers deemed “dependent” on H-1B workers; and, employers such as consulting companies whose employees will work off-site at another organization’s location.

USCIS also announced the use of a new email address (ReportH1BAbuse@uscis.dhs.gov) to allow American workers to report suspected H-1b fraud or abuse.  The agency also published an online reference page that lists other available ways that suspected H1B fraud or abuse may be reported.  The website also lists examples of the types of behavior that may indicate H-1b fraud.  The protections available to U.S. workers are also provided on that site.

On the same day that USCIS issued its press release, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice sent out a separate release that makes it clear that U.S. employers are not supposed to discriminate against the American worker.

From the release:

The anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) generally prohibits employers from discriminating against U.S. workers because of their citizenship or national origin in hiring, firing and recruiting. Employers violate the INA if they have a discriminatory hiring preference that favors H-1B visa holders over U.S. workers.

“The Justice Department will not tolerate employers misusing the H-1B visa process to discriminate against U.S. workers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Civil Rights Division. “U.S. workers should not be placed in a disfavored status, and the department is wholeheartedly committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting these claims.”

These recent changes suggest that Mr. Trump intends to make it more difficult for foreign nationals to work in the U.S.  As a candidate, Trump consistently portrayed immigrants as outsiders coming to take “our jobs.”  These changes to the law may make it significantly harder for employers to hire and retain foreign nationals.

We will keep you apprised of any additional changes to the law.

Yes, undocumented immigrants do indeed pay taxes

In the United States, there are numerous lies, untruths and falsehoods spread by those that dislike immigrants.

One of the favorite arguments made by those who oppose immigration is that undocumented immigrants (so-called “illegals”) is that because they are here without authorization, they aren’t working, they aren’t paying taxes and they are just living off the government dole.

Fact: undocumented immigrants pay billions – billions with a B – in income taxes every year.

How is this possible?

Turns out the IRS wants to get everyone’s taxes – both citizens and non-citizens alike.  So they have a procedure to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a Taxpayer Identification Number, to have their taxes withheld from their wages and to file tax returns every year.

Surprised?

Apparently, some Americans are woefully misinformed on this issue as evidenced by a recent brouhaha that erupted on social media this weekend.

Belen Sisa is an undocumented immigrant.  She currently is the beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program put in place by President Obama.  This means that she is allowed to remain in the U.S., to study and to work.  Sisa came to the U.S. many years ago with her parents and never returned to Argentina.

Last weekend, she posted a photo on her personal Facebook page.  The photo was of her sitting with a blank tax return and mentioned that she had just completed her taxes.

Then all hell broke loose.

Sisa found herself deluged by haters who called her a liar and a tax cheat.  Some folks messaged her to say that they had reported her to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for filing a false tax return.

Here are some of the nice quotes that Ms. Sisa received:

  • “You’re disgusting and I hope that you and your family will be sent back to the lesser country that your ancestors built.”
  • “Whose social are you using? Your face/clothes/car seems to be contrary to u needing assistance girl.”
  • “If you are a foreign invader you will be investigated and picked up I will see to it myself. Who am I you may ask? I’m your biggest nightmare … I am a governor hopeful and putting your deportation on my resume is going to look great on my accolades.”

Sisa’s post has been shared more than 2,600 times.

People are behaving horribly when it comes to immigrants these days.  This is another example of horribly misguided attacks on people who are following the law.  The haters need to relax and mind their own business.